Jammu and Kashmir has become the first state in the country to enact a law banning sexual exploitation of women “by those in positions of authority, having a fiduciary relationship or a public servant”, PTI reported.
The State Administrative Council led by Governor Satya Pal Malik on Friday approved the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2018, and the Jammu and Kashmir Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018, said a government spokesperson. The criminal amendment bill seeks to insert a specific section in the Ranbir Penal Code, the Indian Penal Code’s substitute in the state, to provide for the offence of ‘sextortion’, the official said.
Amendments will be made to various sections of the Criminal Procedure Code and the Evidence Act to bring sextortion at par with similar offences prescribed under the Ranbir Penal Code, said the spokesperson. An amendment will also be made in the Prevention of Corruption Act to change the definition of misconduct and provide that demand for sexual favours would also constitute an offence.
According to the amendments, “any persons in a position of authority or in a fiduciary relationship, or a public servant who abuses such position or fiduciary relationship to employ physical or non-physical form of coercion to extort, request or demand sexual favours from any woman in exchange of some benefits or favours that such person is empowered to grant or withhold shall be guilty of offence of sextortion”.
Anyone found guilty of sextortion will be punished with monetary fine and a minimum jail sentence of three years, which may extend to five years. The offence is “non-bailable” and “not compoundable”.
Peoples Democratic Party leader Nayeem Akhtar said the governor’s move, while permitted by the Constitution, was “politically inappropriate and morally questionable”, The Indian Express reported. “Their primary job is to conduct polls and they must leave all these decisions to an elected government,” Akhtar said. “Malik needs to set his priorities right and, rather than act as somebody who is going to rule for years, he should know he is there till the next elected government takes over.”
Jammu and Kashmir Congress spokesperson Ravinder Sharma said that Malik should only rule on legislations that were urgent or mandated by central amendments. However, state Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Sunil Sethi said the legislation was urgently needed and could be reviewed by an elected legislature later.